Evan Petzold | Detroit Free Press
LAKELAND, Fla. — A new face entered the Detroit Tigers‘ spring training facility as the team prepared for its matchup with the Toronto Blue Jays: Outfielder Nomar Mazara, and it won’t be long before he slides into the lineup.
The 25-year-old battled a lengthy delay for travel and work visa issues while attempting to enter the U.S. from the Dominican Republic. Then, the left-handed hitter — who signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract this winter — went through the COVID-19 intake screening process, requiring five days of quarantine.
Mazara took live batting practice Thursday and went through full workouts.
After Thursday’s 8-2 victory over the Blue Jays, manager AJ Hinch said he wants to get Mazara in the lineup for Sunday’s game at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland. The plan is to either use him as the designated hitter or in the outfield.
“Give him a couple of days,” Hinch said Thursday. “He had three pitchers he got to face. He faced (Julio) Teheran, Franklin Perez and (Ben) Taylor. It was nice for him to be able to see that. The toughest thing now is a lot of guys aren’t throwing live BPs. … He’s in great shape.”
Last year, Mazara hit .228 with one homer and 15 RBIs in 42 games with the Chicago White Sox.
But don’t be fooled.
Mazara played 537 games from 2016-19 with the Texas Rangers. During that span, he logged a .261 batting average, 79 home runs and 308 RBIs, with at least 19 homers in each of those four seasons.
“As far as a breakout candidate, I think he’s young,” Hinch said Tuesday. “The more that we can give him at-bats with a more narrowed focus on getting the ball in the air, the better. And we’ll see. When you get the ball in the air, your exit velocity goes up … and the ball can carry, especially when you have the strength he has.”
Mazara recorded a 52.2% ground-ball rate and 16.3% fly-ball rate last year (compared to the MLB averages of 43.5% for ground balls and 20.5% for fly balls). While Mazara seems in line to be the starter in right field, Victor Reyes will continue to battle for more playing time.
‘It was loud’
In the fifth inning, Blue Jays right-hander Elvis Luciano plunked Zack Short in the helmet with a 93.2 mph fastball. As Short dropped to the ground in the batter’s box, Hinch and the team athletic trainers rushed out of the dugout to check on him.
He is not showing any symptoms of a concussion.
“We escaped anything major with him, other than him being annoyed that he got hit in the head,” Hinch said. “It was scary. It was loud. Luckily, I think it might have even clipped that chin guard that he’s wearing. He was seen by our doctors, and he’s not showing any symptoms. We’re lucky that, at this point, feel like we’ve escaped a big injury.”
This spring, Short is 2-for-4 (one double) in four games.
Although the 25-year-old might start the season in Triple-A Toledo, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make his MLB debut at some point in 2021. Short joined the Tigers organization last season as the return in the deadline trade that sent veteran outfielder Cameron Maybin to the Chicago Cubs. Short hit .235 in 63 minor-league games in 2019, rising as high as Triple-A in the Cubs farm system.